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Tag Archives: in-memory

Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Spring 2017)

Passed and Present, by Allison Gilbert~ Do you have a growing collection of objects that hold fond memories? Maybe they are things that remind you of your childhood, or memorabilia from a deceased loved one.  Over time, these items—as beloved as they are—begin to take up a lot of space.  It can be difficult to part with them and can feel like a loss all over again.  Because I am very sentimental, I am beginning to feel stressed by the amount of material things I am fond of.  That’s why this book caught my eye as I was passing the new release shelf at my local library.  It’s chock-full of creative ideas one use to put their heirlooms and other memorabilia to good use.  Some of it involves art projects, or different display techniques, while other ideas invite the participation of others (friends, family, even strangers).  What’s nice is that this book isn’t just about the practical use of cold objects, but that the point is aimed at keeping the memory of one’s parent/grandparent/friend, etc. alive.  I was able to get a couple of good ideas I would like to implement someday.  It’s worth checking out!

The Gentle Art of Domesticity, by Jane Brocket~ This was a book I picked up at a book sale and didn’t realize how interesting it was until I got it home and got to looking at the pictures. Just the title alone has won me over, but each chapter after another holds it’s own interest as well.  If you have an interest in noticing art in the everyday small moments, this book is for you.  I don’t pretend to be a June Cleaver, I don’t like crochet or sewing or making every blessed thing from scratch.  But I love the idea of glorying in texture and patterns, identifying one’s style and expressing that in everything.  The author’s own style isn’t particularly my own but I was inspired to create different pinterest boards for myself based on what I like.  Jane Brocket’s conversational rambling of thoughts also make for interesting reading.  And I’m sure the bright colors in the photographs will be enough to brighten anyone’s day!

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In Memory: Mrs. G

51e9d7a7e989699f05f92ce2686ea346This post is a little different in that instead of honoring someone who has passed away, I’m choosing to recognize someone who is alive and well as far as I know.  Yet they still had some influence in the world of reading in my life.

The summer before I entered third grade, I was a ball of worry. Which teacher’s class would I be placed in?  In our small little rural school, there were only two options: Mrs. G or Mrs. C.  Mrs. C was to be faced with fear and trembling.  Her gravelly voice shook the seats we sat in, and you could very well be bawled out just as much as the troublemaker was by being in as close association with him as in the same music class.  I even remember whole grades being kept in from recess by Mrs. C because of the antics of one or two who misbehaved.  Lunch period’s collective student noise was not allowed to excess beyond a measuring device’s certain level, never mind that Mrs. C’s voice alone could set off the buzzer.

I suppose Mrs. C really wasn’t the worst teacher out there. Somehow my sister entered her class, lived to tell about it, and actually came out with some fond memories of her.  But being of a highly sensitive nature, I knew I wouldn’t make it through Day 1 if fate dictated I received her as my teacher.  So it was with great relief when I learned I would be placed in Mrs. G’s class.

Mrs. G was the opposite of Mrs. C in every way. She was young and fresh out of college, creative, –not to mention pretty to look at.  She wore beautiful dresses from department stores and had a youthful, fun energy that made learning fun.  I was never one who liked school, but I actually looked forward to it when I had Mrs. G as my teacher.

It was around the time I was 8 yeas old that I progressed from reading little kids’ books to chapter books (other than the Little House on the Prairie series, anyway). Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Anne series were among some of my favorites.  “Charlotte’s Web,” by E. B. White was also a firs,t in that it was the first I got so emotionally involved in the story that I cried (even though I’d seen the cartoon version and knew what would happen).

03573052ba9016c9381927786138648cOne time I got sick and had to be off school for about a week. My mom went to the school to pick up some prescribed homework that Mrs. G had planned out for me.  But she didn’t just send home schoolwork; she also sent with my mom a whole stack of books that I could read at my leisure!  I barely remember the titles of them anymore, but I do remember deciding to read the first page of each one to decide which to read first.

One of my favorite memories of Mrs. G was when she read to us a chapter from a fiction book every day. She read a couple of different books, but the most memorable was “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” by C. S. Lewis.  How we loved that story!  We looked forward to the next day at school so we could hear the next ‘episode.’  Mrs. G would turn off the lights and then stand by a window or the doorway for light to read by.  For some reason the darkened room helped to make for a more dramatic atmosphere, and the theaters of our imaginations were free from distractions.  I think she got into it just as much as we did.  I later read the book for myself and highly enjoyed it, but there was something about experiencing the story altogether as a class that made it special, I think.

One day Mrs. G was sick and couldn’t come to school. It may have been a Friday and we couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait an extra long weekend until Monday to hear what was going to happen next to the Pevensies.  So we asked the substitute teacher if she would read it to us.  It was the part when Peter, Susan, and Lucy meet Father Christmas and receive their special gifts.  For some reason, it just wasn’t quite the same when she read it.  And the only time I ever saw Mrs. G mad was when she came back the next week and found we’d already read her favorite chapter of the whole book without her!

Mrs. G also tried to read us one of the Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine, but it was so disturbing that Mrs. G couldn’t handle it. So we moved onto other, more wholesome stories.

My teacher inspired me in many different ways. I was also encouraged by her attendance at my dad’s funeral several years after I’d moved on from her class.  Mrs. G will always be a bright spot in my memories of my schooldays.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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In Memory of Grandma R.

a36a25470941845c666f2c036d13be8eMy Grandma R lived close to my family when my sister and I were growing up. We saw her regularly at least once a week, sometimes even more because she was often our babysitter. When I was very little, I could sometimes get Grandma to read childrens’ books to me, but I don’t remember this happening a lot. We were usually more interested in playing with the old-fashioned dollhouse, or with her collection of teddy bears, or watching The Andy Griffith Show on her cable tv (which we’d never had). But one book-related memory from about this age stands out in my mind. Grandma was reading aloud a Sesasme Street story featuring Big Bird and one of the characters said, “Gee…” Now, this was a word I was never supposed to say growing up, so I was shocked to hear my own grandmother say it. Self-righteous me soundly rebuked her for it, but she didn’t understand what the problem was.

Grandma was artistic, and was quite a famous quilter in her day and spent most of her freetime quilting applique or patchwork by hand. I remember spending time playing underneath her Amish-made quilt frames as she sewed wearing a thimble. She had a whole bookcase full of quilting magazines filed away with the page numbers of patterns she was interested in penned on the front. She also had a whole bookcase of other books which included ‘50’s era novels, Janette Oke, and some Reader’s Digest books. The RD books were the most interesting to me because they had photographs of covered bridges, country schoolhouses, and other nostalgic old-timey subjects.

3a0f2e6fdaa1a1bfa51a2830bfdd43b7Grandma sewed other things besides just quilts. Whenever anyone asks me what my most cherished possession is, I immediately think of my Raggedy Anne doll that Grandma made me for Christmas when I was 5 years old. Actually, she made one for my sister as well. On their tummies are embroidered hearts with the words, “I Love You” stitched on. Doll blankets and doll clothes were also handmade. We loved those Raggedies to death!  Grandma also gave us a series of Raggedy Anne books by Johnny Gruelle, complete with color illustrations which we each read several times. My particular favorite was Raggedy Anne and Andy in Cookie Land. It wasn’t until years later that I learned there are even more in the series than the 5 or 6 that we owned.

Another series my grandmother gave to me as I grew older was the “Grandma’s Attic” books by Arleta Richardson. These were also favorites of mine as a kid. I wish that I had access to the last few in the series (when Mabel teaches school and gets married), but so far I haven’t seen these at book sales. The great thing about these books was reading about an imperfect heroine who learns from her mistakes, and young readers can also develop character growth in learning with her.

When Grandma moved to FL when I was 12, she went through a lot of her belongings and let us pick stuff out to keep before she got rid of them. She also left me her box full of scrapbook pictures. Included in the box of scrapbook pictures were poems that Grandma had enjoyed reading. Most of them were cutsy little rhymes about nature or kitties, etc. from old magazines decades ago. Also In the box was a beautiful red vintage scrapbook that had once belonged to Grandma’s deceased sister. It seems both of the sisters had been interested enough in scrapbooking to have cut out tons of beautiful pictures from calendars, magazines, etc., but they never gotten around to pasting them in a book. This hobby greatly appealed to me! In the days before my family got a computer, I would spend hours cutting and gluing all the pictures that struck my fancy, plus important headlines of the day from the local newspaper. I filled up the red book and started several other volumes of my own. This is an activity I greatly miss now that everything has gone digital. Pinterest is fun, but just not the same. Nothing digital lasts forever.

Grandma was never in great health, even when we were young, so we never did anything hugely momentous or exciting. Instead, I remember that spending time at Grandma’s house meant a quiet place where I could bring along my book (usually a Hardy Boys mystery), plop into an armchair and read all afternoon while the clock on the corner cabinet ticked and chimed like Big Ben. Those types of memories are just as nice as any other. Grandma R. passed away a year ago last September, but these will memories are what I will carry with me always.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Unbroken

4fe30e0b0eaa6477f240667d2e04f4b5Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand.

Version: 2014; directed by Angelina Jolie

Genre: WWII drama; biography

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:]After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.”

My Review: Ever since I saw the original CBS documentary about WWII vet Louis Zamperini as a kid, I wished his story could be made into a movie.  I was greatly interested when his story was written by author Laura Hillenbrand as the bestselling non-fiction book, “Unbroken” a few years ago.  When I heard that the story would be filmed for the big screen, I was ecstatic but nervous.  Would Angelina Jolie be able to do his story the justice it deserved?  [See my book review here and interview with author on Janet Parshall’s In the Market here.]

Unbroken” came out in theaters Christmas Day and my family and I went to see it last night.  By this point I didn’t bother going with my fingers crossed because I’d heard so many good things about the relationship between Jolie and Zamperini:

As I had been reading the book, I wondered how it would be possible to translate this to film.  There were so many important events in Zamperini’s life: his rebellious childhood, athletic career, military life, survival on a lifeboat, POW camps, post war life with his family…  How could this be fit into a regular two hour movie?  I worried.

I will try not to give away too many spoilers.  But I was astounded at the handling of this true-life story.  I have to say that I have never seen a movie that was so true to the book as this one.  I’m sure many Unbroken fans will be pleased about this!  Of course, much of the story had to be condensed to fit a limited timeframe, but many small details were left intact that could have been left out otherwise.  From Louis’ class ring to the real picture of Phil’s sweetheart Cecy, these accuracies felt realistic. I felt I could appreciate my viewing experience all the more by having read the book first, but this isn’t absolutely necessary for all.

This was no shabby B-movie.  Casting was great and the acting fantastic!  Even though the actors may not have all looked like the photographs of the people they were playing, I think good choices were made all the way around.  I worried about who they would pick to play Watanabe, but Japanese actor Takamasa Ishihara played this evil character well.

Probably one of the main things I was impressed with was the careful handling of the story’s pacing.  As I said before, I had been worried but I need not have been.  Louis’ prewar life is told in balanced flashbacks.  The 47 days spent on the liferaft drags on, but I thought this was great from a storytelling point of view.  It created an atmosphere for the viewer to get the feeling of languishing with the survivors of the plane crash.   I do wish there had been more shark-fights as there had been in real life, but I suppose one can’t have everything!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI also felt the film did a great job at making you feel the pain and misery of the POWs at the Japanese camps.  I’m sure it was even worse in real life and that the movie “cleaned it up,” but still the viewer gets a taste of it…

This obviously isn’t a movie for the very young.  There are some very subtle sexual innuendos and a little foul language.  Nothing to make me cringe terribly, and it probably wouldn’t have been in keeping with reality if there hadn’t been some of these elements.  There is no sleeping around.  There is backside nudity that isn’t in a sexual context, but rather in a POW context.  Men are violently beaten nearly to death, but I didn’t feel it crossed the line into Rated R territory.  If you’re wondering if Gaga the Duck makes an appearance, the answer is no.  Thankfully we are spared that!

One of the things I worried about going into the movie was how Louis’ conversion after the war would be portrayed.  At first I was a little disappointed to find that his postwar life is entirely told in footnotes at the end.  However, I did not get the feeling that it was glossed over with the intent of making light of it or excluded for the sake of covering up Louis’ spiritual beliefs.  In the movie, we see Louis promising to devote his life to God in the middle of a storm, and he shows interest in his friend’s belief in God, along with other allusions to faith throughout.  After thinking about it, I realized that there really could be no way to film his life with Cynthia and his meeting with Billy Graham without making the pace of the story feel unbalanced.  The quality of the telling of A) his lifeboat survival (w/ prewar flashbacks) and B) POW camp life would have had to have been sacrificed in order to make time for about 30 min. of his postwar life.  So, I accept their decision in this.  I did not feel they dishonored Louis or God with the footnotes at the end.

There is one bugaboo I will mention and that is that I was dissatisfied with the way in which they expressed Phil’s faith.  Louis asks Phil if he thinks God has a plan for them in all their suffering.  I can’t remember the exact quote, but Phil says something to the effect that “the only thing they can do is to live the best way they can, have a little fun along the way, and when it comes time to die an angel will say they can ask all their dumb questions now.”  This didn’t feel like something Phil would have said.  From the book I gathered he had a personal relationship with God that was more than a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” sort of faith.  There: my complaining is over!

I hope many will go out to see and support this fine movie in the theaters.  It really is worth your time!  And give a round of applause at the end as the credits start to roll for Louis Zamperini (who passed away this past July).

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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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In Memory of Aunt E.

Sometimes it’s the people you assume will be with you forever that pass away unexpectedly.  Last fall, my Aunt E –farmwife, book lover, and lifelong lover of learning—went to be with her Lord at a young age.  After she died, I began to reflect on just how much influence my aunt had on my life.  Especially in the arena of books.

Aunt E. loved books.  She decorated with books (“Books are the best things to decorate with,” she told me).  Her living room included a built-in bookcase made of rough-hewn timbers and was lined with all sorts of books.  There were her favorite Trixie Belden series from her teenage years.  Classics.  An old school textbooks.  I once asked if she’d ever read any of them, expecting that she’d say they were just for pretty.  But she surprised me by saying, “Of course!”

Uncle B. once gave his wife a stack of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not (from the old original series), which he’d scoured the local used bookstore for, and she enjoyed them just as much as if he’d given her flowers.  It was not uncommon to see my aunt and uncle reading during their late supper-snack, after they’d come in from the barn chores.

Aunt E. loved learning anything and everything she could get her hands on to read.  From history, psychology, to nature, it was said during her eulogy that she voraciously consumed nearly the entire local library.  During the years 2006-2007, she read 216 books, –quite a feat, considering the amount of farm duties she took care of on a daily basis.  Of course, audiobooks were a large part of her literary diet.  Being so busy with farmwife duties, she often checked out audiobooks to listen to while canning peaches, cleaning house, or doing dishes.  I remember riding with her home from the library while she popped in a cassette of “Jeeves and Wooster,” which was the first I’d ever heard of it.  My aunt and uncle didn’t have tv, but she knew about so many subjects just from reading/listening that she often was more informed about topics than others in conversations.  She knew as much (if not more so) about the scandal surrounding the Prince of Wales and Lady Di than we did after we’d watched a documentary on tv about it.

My aunt kept up a long-distance letter correspondence with my sister and I when we were growing up.  That definitely exercised our writing skills!  It was always the highlight of the week to find a letter in the mailbox from her.  We talked about so many things.  One time I wrote to her all about how scared I was to move, and in her responding letter she reminded me that ‘This is not our home; we’re just passing through…’  I think she liked to read about all the girlhood experiences we were having growing up.  We liked to hear her unique thoughts on all types of things—from Christmas music to vacations, to Victorian dresses and politics.  And books, of course!

watercolourHer first influence on me when it came to books was sending a box full of paperbacks to take along with me on a summer vacation camping trip to New York.  I can’t remember what any of them were anymore, but I remember the gesture.  If it hadn’t been for my aunt’s suggesting, I might not have discovered such books as: “Anne of Green Gables,” “Betsy, Tacy, Tib,” “Daddy-Long-Legs,” and “Laddie.”  “Every girl needs to read the Anne books before she grows up,” she told me.  And she was right.  She also said that Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer,” and “Huckleberry Finn” were best enjoyed as an adult.

It was my aunt who inspired me to start keeping my own “To-Read” notebook.  I noticed she kept a little spiral bound one with the titles of books she wanted to look up at the library.  I decided to start my own similar notebook, and have now graduated to two Meads: one for fiction, one for non-fiction.  I remember asking my aunt if it were possible to ever run out of books to read.  She shook her head.  She was right, of course.  (I also have her to thank for inspiring me to keep my own quote-book.)

My aunt and uncle didn’t have any children of their own, but they had many nieces and nephews.  Her sister’s children (not related to us) were much younger than my sister and I, and their mother didn’t always have time to read to all of them at the time, so my aunt came up with an idea.  They sent me her children’s picture books and asked me to tape record the stories and send them back for the kids to listen to and follow along.  I loved doing that so much!!  I probably had more fun than the kids did listening!  And it also was my first experience in reading on tape for someone else.  Now I have moved on to Librivox, but it was my aunt’s idea that made me realize it was a dream for me to pursue.

My sister and I stayed for several weeks at my aunt’s house the spring my grandmother died.  I was 15 years old and needed a book to read to pass the time.  I wandered down to the back living room, to the built-in bookcase beside the fireplace and decided to try a faded purple volume of “Jane Eyre.”  I loved it!  I spent many hours engrossed in the story of Jane and Rochester.  Years later, my aunt gave me that very copy when she was ‘weeding out’ to make more room for other books.

 Aunt E. told me she wished she’d spent more time reading the classics when she was growing up, but at the time she was only interested in horse stories.  As an adult, she often said her favorite books were “Laddie,” by Gene Stratton-Porter, and the “All Creatures Great and Small” series by James Herriot.  She said she’d listened to the latter so many times on audiobook she had it memorized, and that when she finally got the chance to watch the tv series, she knew what the characters were going to say before said it!

Her annual Christmas letters definitely showed a James Herriot influence.  She usually had some sort of animal story to tell, farm drama or other tidbit to share, and could spin it in such a humorous way that people often anticipated next year’s letter.  People told her she ought to write a book.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Aunt E didn’t like sad endings (I remember she gave up an audiobook early on in the story because the main character’s beloved aunt died).  It was a shock to all of us when she became very sick several months before she passed.  But she bravely faced her own mortality—because she believed that those who belong to Christ Jesus are promised an ultimately glorious ending… which happens to be the beginning of another and Better Story.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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In Memory: Great Grandma S.

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Great-Grandma S.

This past July, the matriarch of our family passed away.  My Great-Grandmother S. (1908-2013) died at the age of 104.  It is amazing to consider just how many world events she lived through and the amount of lifestyle changes she experienced.  I remember doing a recorded interview with her on her front porch during the fall several years ago, and her telling of the first time she listened to a radio and the first time she saw an airplane.  She even remembered soldiers marching down the main street during WWI. I even did a school report of her experiences as a schoolteacher during the Great Depression.

Grandma was pretty sharp for her age and could remember many things, even though she was pretty much deaf during the last several years of her life.  For being quite a family-loving peopleperson, this had to have been quite lonely for her.  Still, her bright blue eyes always shone with a light.

“So this is Christmas 2007…” she murmured aloud while we ate our family holiday meal.  “I can’t believe how OLD I am!” she’d shake her head.

Having been a schoolteacher, Grandma had a love for learning.  In her younger years, Grandma had been a sales representative for World Book Encyclopedia.  In an age where most information is online, there was once a day when encyclopedias were a treasure to own.  Many in our family own a complete set, due to Grandma’s influence.  I remember using them for school reports, before my family got a computer.  More often than not however, my sister and I used them to build forts in the back yard.

From Childcraft - 1950sGoing back even further, I remember growing up with the old red and white set of Childcraft books for children, I believe published around 1960 (but don’t quote me).  I loved looking at the sweet illustrations and having the fun rhythmical poems read aloud.  Sometimes I would act out some of the stories like the Pirate Don Dirk of Dowdee, or do school reports on some of the biographical stories like Dolly Madison.  This precious set of books were my mom’s when she was girl, purchased by her parents who got them from… you guessed it! Grandma S., World Book sales rep.

We lived in a different state from Grandma growing up, so we didn’t get to see her all that often.  When we did visit, she always had a present for my sister and me.  One time she gave me a craft book and another time I received a biography of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Grandma was a lover of letter writing.  She had 28 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren, even a few great-greats, but she enjoyed keeping in touch with all of them, and received many letters in return.  The family joke was that no one wanted to write anything too personal, because we all knew she’d spread the news to the rest of the clan!  One grandson even announced his engagement to the family in Grandma’s letter, knowing it would get around.

At the funeral, there were many tears, but they were not without hope.  We all knew where Grandma was… safe, completely well and happy with Jesus.  Her life was one of faith and love for God and her family.  A couple of years ago, my family and I got the opportunity to live next door to her for about a year, and we would go over and visit her.  One time I was surprised to see the book, “Reaching for the Invisible God,” by Phillip Yancey.  I think I was surprised that someone nearly 100 years old was still pursuing spiritual growth and seeking to grow closer to God.  I guess I thought there was a point where you just stop and wait for the end.  Not Grandma.

The story is now told in our family of her last moment on earth.  All of a sudden she sat bolt upright in bed, arms outstretched with a look of joy on her face and laughed, like she recognized someone.  I think she had known that Someone all her life, and it was now complete joy to be with Him face to face.  Jesus is no longer invisible to her.

“It’s a great life…” Grandma often said.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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